WPP in cash and shares offer as Grey deadline looms

LONDON - With a deadline of 3pm New York today for Grey Global Group bids, WPP Group is reported to be making a cash and shares offer worth $1.3bn (£730m) for the company.

According to a report in The Times, Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, is most likely to emerge the winner of the fight for Grey Global, which owns Grey Worldwide and MediaCom, because he will be willing to keep Grey's 77-year old president, chairman and CEO Ed Meyer at the helm of the company.

Details of WPP's cash and shares offer have not been revealed, but if Sir Martin does offer £730m for the company it will be at the top end of the price bidders were expected to pay, with fears that the British group might end up overpaying.

Havas could also still be in the running, but it is not certain whether the French advertising group, headed by chief executive Alain de Pouzilhac, will finalise its bid in time for the 3pm deadline. It has yet to find another financial partner since losing Quadrangle.

Some have speculated that the French company's already large debt could hold it back, and the company is believed to have been in talks with banks about financing a €1bn bond offering.

Hellman & Friedman, the San Francisco-based US buyout firm, is also expected to make an offer for Grey, which counts Procter & Gamble among its clients. Hellman's other media interests include a 20% stake in Axel Springer, the German media giant, and it once owned a stake in Young & Rubicam -- the ad agency that is now part of WPP. The firm is being advised by former Y&R chief executive Mike Dolan.

Yesterday Bob Willott, editor of industry newsletter Marketing Services Financial Intelligence, warned that the mooted price of $1.3bn was too much to pay for Grey, and that it assumed that the company could more than double its low profit margin of 6.5%.

If you have an opinion on this or any other issue raised on Brand Republic, join the debate in the Forum here.